Friday, 13 December 2019


Via Kottke, we learn that in 1966 that the Ford Motor Company developed a concept pickup truck called Ranger II, whose chassis not only bears a passing resemblance to the Cybertruck (previously here and here) but also included features like an unbreakable windshield. Hopefully Tesla’s design will emerge successfully from the drawing-room and on to road-worthiness.


According to tradition martyred on this day during the Diocletian persecutions of the third century, the solemnity of the Feast of Saint Lucy of the Greek colony of Syracuse in Sicily was somehow translated from her native Italy to darkened, northern climes to become a major Advent celebration in Scandinavian lands.
She is depicted wearing a crown of candles so as to free her arms up to carry as many provisions as she could to fellow Christians hiding in the city’s catacombs to hold mass in secret and evade capture and punishment to navigate the passages and locate her community. Until calendar reforms that didn’t take effect in Nordic countries until the 1800s, Saint Lucy’s Day fell on the Winter Solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year—to which she brings light and traditionally marked the beginning of Yuletide. Festivities include choosing a local representative for Saint Lucy and an early morning, pre-dawn procession of children—it being also customary to barge into one’s parents’ bedrooms, even the visiting Nobel laureates still in town since the honours usually fall around the same time being treated to the special intercession, and being served a breakfast of Lussekat, baked buns flavoured with saffron. The day is bookended also with Lucy’s counterpart, Lussi the Witch taking flight and bringing general mischief and possibly misfortune for those who didn’t finish holiday preparations and obligations in a timely manner (see also here and here) from Lussinatta until Christmas.

Thursday, 12 December 2019


Though some academic might take exception to this bit of folk etymology, the city of Antwerp is named after a legendary practise of hand-hurling ([h]ant werpen) commemorated with a bronze figure of the Roman soldier who put an end to exorbitant tolls.
According to local lore, trade was hindered by a despotic giant called Druon Antigoon, whom exacted a high price for passage (like Three Billy Goats Gruff) and would cut off a hand of a vessel’s captain who failed to pay the fee for docking and unceremoniously toss it into the harbor. A Roman captain of the guard named Silvius Brabo slew the menace by decapitating him with his sword and for the sake of poetic justice also cut off his hand and hurled it as far as he could. The scene was executed in bronze as a fountain before the guild halls in the main market square in 1887 by sculptor Jef Lambeaux in part to celebrate the end of the revanchment policy of imposing high tariffs—though without dismemberment.

general election

sunday best

To celebrate a centenary of public ownership, the BBC reports, the English Heritage Trust—the charitable organization that manages over four hundred historic properties, included in its portfolio manor houses, Roman fortifications, Tintagel Castle and oversight in the Blue Plaques programme of London, solicited from visitors family snapshots of Stonehenge.  Included in the contributions that numbered over a thousand was this circa 1932 outing amongst the stones and one image capturing a family picnic from the summer of 1875. The gallery showcases not only changing fashion and access to the monoliths but also how people’s relationship to the camera has evolved—how they mug and pose and what constitutes keeping—all against a backdrop that’s remained ageless.


In recognition of the relatively new and accepted practise of declaring one’s pronouns—though they and derivatives like theirs and themselves have been employed in the English language in the singular context (see also) since the 1500s, Merriam-Webster named they as their 2019 Word of the Year, reflecting the volume of lookups on its website. Significantly, current parlance rather than referencing an unknown or unspecified antecedent instead is a term that normalises gender-neutrality or non-conformity along with gendered personal pronouns. Honourable-mentions from this past year’s lingual landscape can also be explored at the link above.

unman, wittering and zigo

Released under the title Compañeros del Crimen to theatre audiences in Uruguay in 1972 the cinematic adaptation of the 1958 radio drama by Giles Cooper portrays a newly arrived substitute teacher hired on to complete the semester at a boys’ finishing school who comes to suspect that his predecessor was murdered by the students—though his fears are dismissed as paranoia initially. Often portrayed as a stage piece in public schools in the UK, it is also part of the curriculum for English standard coursework for one’s GCSEs. The resonant quotation from the venerable headmaster goes, “Authority is a necessary evil and every bit as evil as it is necessary.”